Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Three Mouse Night

Bubba and Bezel - I'm not touching him! - Fall 2006

What is a "three mouse night", you say? I suppose you need to have a cat like Bubba to understand. Bubba is an Alsea cat, born and bred. The kind of cat, with genes for speed and ruthless behavior, designed for barnyards and fields and a countryside full of rodents and small, furry things.

The phrase "two mouse night" was actually first coined when Bezel, our old cat from Arizona, moved to Oregon with us and found the rodent population so plentiful he would sometimes disembowel two mice in one night, often under the family bed. Alternatively, he would leave a decapitated mouse or two for me to step on with bare feet first thing in the morning. I'm not sure we ever had more than a "one mouse night" in the desert, so this increased activity was significant. Greg said it was surely a sign of love and affection. I felt the truth was closer to shooting fish in a barrel. I took to throwing the corpses out the second-floor window of our bedroom, into the dense bank of rhodedendrons below. This is also where I threw the dead birds.

Bubba came into our lives as a small, black kitten pulled from a box of littermates at the blue house across from the Mercantile in Alsea. Greg had complained to several local mates the chipmunks were decimating our raspberries and kiwis. He was advised to find a local cat breed to quell the nonsense. Alsea cats for Alsea problems. Greg wasn't looking for a friend for Bezel; he was looking for a natural born killer. After the initial irritation wore off, Bezel became content to curl up in Greg's lap in the evenings and sleep on the bed at night. What was the point in competing for mice if the cat bowl was always filled and Bubba was in town?

The "three mouse night" happened mid-autumn when the temperatures were cooling, but the rains had not yet come. To be more exact, Bubba presented us with a three "rodent" evening, as he is a non-discrimating predator when it comes to voles, moles, and field mice. I had never run across a vole until we arrived in Oregon; however, the best way to describe these furry creatures is they look like sharp-nosed mice. They are the bane of farmers in the Northwest since they eat the roots of the grasses grown for seed and hay used for feed. Not totally "up" on my rodent varieties, I originally thought Bubba was playing with moles. I have since learned moles are larger, flatter-fatter, web-footed, slit-eyed, and much more difficult to catch because they rarely surface above ground. I think Bubba has only caught two, which is too bad because my orchard and lawn have large mounds of red-brown dirt everywhere (although they say this makes excellent potting soil).

The first "treat" was dragged into the house around dinner-time. It was a fairly dead-looking vole, small and probably quite young. Bubba tossed it around for a bit and then left the body in the middle of the carpet. He flopped down next to the fire to clean his paws. I picked up the vole by the tail and threw it out the door, to Bubba's apparent disgust. He was just taking a break. He quickly exited out the dog door to begin the hunt again.

The second treat was produced a little later. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the catch and release game going on in the other room. What a miserable life to be a mouse, especially that mouse. We heard the scampering of cat claws racing across the wood floors, in and out of the dining table legs, saw area rugs no longer lying flat but bunched as if for playing hide-and-seek, heard the squeek of the mouse as it was caught again, and then silence. My friend, Gayle, recently witnessed a similar episode and was surprised we don't interfere. Sometimes I will. It depends on the day; it depends on the ease of being the saviour. For the mouse, it is serendipity whether this is a lucky day or not.

The third mouse arrived in the bedroom after the lights were out. There was a great deal of scuffling, made louder by the quiet of the night. We tossed and turned. I put the pillow over my head. Then all was silent. Had the mouse found refuge out of Bubba reach? Was this to be a new resident in our house, like so many before that Bubba chased, watched for, and then forgot? I have an ongoing joke with friends about the mouse population actually increasing in the house because the cat drags them in from outside and loses them. It's a common problem. They nod their heads.

The next morning I watched where I put my feet, but there were no signs of either Bubba or the mouse. When I find the sorry little creatures hiding under a flower pot or behind a piece of low furniture I will often grab a tail and redeposit it out the back door. In this case, it is survival of the fittest rodent. Just as Bubba is a natural born killer, we probably house the top of the food chain in the mouse world. It's a cycle of farm life I don't much like, not when I am wiping up parts of animals deposited in the middle of the floor. But if it weren't a cat, it would be an owl or some other predator.

Don't get me started on bird kills, though. As deft as he is at catching rodents, Bubba is a menace to the bird-feeder population. I am usually unable to save them, and he doesn't care. Most people frown when I mention this other side of Bubba's nature, except it really isn't anything other than his true nature. He's an Alsea cat and you get the good and the bad when you hire the best killer you can find.

(This photo shows Bubba in the shape of a "C" doing that childish thing that drives Bezel crazy "I'm not touching you. Really, I'm not touching you". Yeah, right!)

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2007 Scottie Jones

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